The freedom of association is a constitutional right, guaranteed by Article 44 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo. This article grants everyone the right to establish an organization without having to obtain permission to either be a member of an organization and to participate in activities of organization. The legal framework for freedom of association includes the current Law no. 04/L-57 on Freedom of Association in NGOs and Administrative Instruction GRK – no. 02/2014. The legal forms of freedom of association are: associations and foundations regulated by the Law on Freedom of Association. It also includes trade unions, political parties, employers’ associations, religious communities, etc., which are regulated through their respective laws. However, there are no legal provisions for the establishment of non-profitable companies or for donations, although the latter is expressly not forbidden. Associations can be established by at least three individuals or legal persons, while foundations can be established by a single person or through testament.
NGO registration is not mandatory, it is free of charge and registration rules are simple, while the response from the Department for NGO Registration should be given within 60 days. The legal framework does not recognize the category of community-based organizations. However, since the exercise of the freedom of association without having to register is a constitutional right, also defined by primary and secondary legislation, anyone can establish an organization, including a community-based organization. Although there are no reports of any restrictions on the functioning of unregistered organizations, most local donors (including state institutions) and international donors do not provide funds to unregistered organizations. In January 2017, the Ministry of Public Administration launched the Electronic Registration System for NGOs envisaged to facilitate the simplified and easy registration process of an NGO. The system offers the same services as the Department for NGO Registration. Legislation also envisages the right of appeal, which is regulated by Administrative Instruction. However, the appeal process is considered to be problematic as the same authority has the mandate to establish the Complaints Commission. Also, networks are considered as associations and the same rules apply.
The legal framework forbids public authorities to intervene in the work and activities of NGOs, except for Article 18 of Administrative Instruction GRK – No: 02/2014 on the Registration and Functioning of NGOs. This article enables the Department of NGOs to suspend the activity of an NGO on the written request and the reasoning of the authorized security institution. The maximum length of the suspension is one year whereas the reasoning may be based on cases where the NGO activity is suspected of not being in line with the legal and constitutional order of the Republic of Kosovo and with international law. Civil society has argued that this article is not in compliance with primary legislation and international standards. However, this article remains in force and allows unjustifiable state intervention in CSO leadership and activities. On the other hand, there are no specific legal provisions that oblige the state to provide protection against third-party intervention.
CSOs in Kosovo can freely seek and provide funds from various local and foreign sources in order to support their activities. However, the prerequisite for the prior authorization of funds provided for in the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing continues to be a difficult procedure while seeking and securing financial resources. The Law on the Freedom of Association in NGOs, which foresees that NGOs can engage in various economic activities, has not been changed.
In the end, the legal provisions within the Law on the Freedom of Association in NGOs on the dissolution of NGOs are considered to be in line with international principles and standards.